An Awesome, Under-Recognized Opportunity to Act on Climate

Author: Diana Donlon

As a plant-lover I’ve always appreciated healthy soil, but it wasn’t until I heard a rancher named Richard King explain how rebuilding the organic matter in soils has the potential to store tons of atmospheric carbon that I got true religion. “You should do a TED Talk,” I gushed after his workshop at the California Climate & Agriculture (CalCAN) summit a few years ago. Since first meeting King, I’ve been preaching the multiple benefits of increasing soil’s capacity to store much of our excess carbon to anyone who will listen. And I’m not alone.

An emerging community of soil-carbon enthusiasts is working diligently to bring thought-leaders, policy-makers, and concerned citizens into our fold by offering a practical, empowering, and ultimately hopeful — albeit under-recognized — tool to address the climate crisis: rebuilding soil carbon.

We’re an eclectic, enthusiastic, and occasionally eccentric, bunch that includes global luminaries like Ohio State University’s Dr. Rattan Lal, Australia’s Dr. Christine Jones, and Zimbabwe’s Allan Savory; cutting-edge carbon ranchers like John Wick, Ridge Shinn, and Joe and Julie Morris; insightful (and delightful) authors Judith Schwartz, Cows Save the Planet, and Kristin Ohlson, The Soil will Save Us, as well as forward-thinking organizations including the Quivira Coalition, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, the Carbon Underground, Kiss the Ground and of course, Center for Food Safety, the amazing organization where I work.

Our soils are in trouble. Ray Archuleta, an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, tells us they are “naked, hungry, thirsty and running a fever.” There are many reasons for the sickly state of this life-supporting ecosystem, but essentially, humans have been undermining soil function by tilling it for thousands of years. In recent decades, we’ve also been actively poisoning the life in our soils with pesticides and other chemicals.

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